Giving the benefit of doubt

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Good thinking men who are really concerned about the moral and well being of the society must have coined such terms like truth, false, honesty, dishonesty, integrity and disintegrity etc.Similarly phrases and sentences like honesty is the best policy’, truth alone triumphs’, and there is no substitute for hard work’ etc have also been framed to see that the human beings travel on the right track in their life path.

Giving the benefit of doubt’ is one such phrase that must have been framed to prevent human beings from jumping to conclusions, to save the innocent pople from injustice and to regulate the conduct of the human beings.

The ultimate purpose and logic that lies behind the phrase is each and every action of a human being or incidents that happen are actually prompted by some reasons or causes.Therefore, neither what you have seen nor what you have heard is true or that can be relied upon,but it is the decision that is ultimately arrived at after a thorough enquiry or investigation into an episode or incident, that matters and should be taken into account. If you cannot come to a conclusion even after a thorough enquiry or investigation, then the person at whom the accusing finger has been pointed out should be spared giving him or her, the benefit of doubt.’

The judicial premise that lies behind the phrase is that a court may even allow a number of culprits to go Scot free but not a single innocent person should be punished or meted out with injustice. Moreover, an accused who is being prosecuted by the judiciary can be held guilty and punished as per law,only if his or her crime alleged to have been committed by him or her, is proved beyond reasonable doubt.If the prosecuting authority is falling short of it, then the accused should be given the benefit of doubt and so acquitted.

In actual practice, the phrase giving the benefit of doubt’ is mostly abused or grossly misused. The judiciary in the name of rendering justice, mete out injustice, especially while administering criminal justice; this phrase is frequently and grossly misused as an ultimate weapon, to let off or acquit criminals or reduce their punishment giving them, the benefit of doubt’

Many factors or rather we can say loopholes play a prominent role that result in the misuse of this phrase. Courts have been invested with inherent powers which are sometimes being misused or become corruptive, when the accused persons happen to be the high profile political personalities.The liaison between the prosecuting authorities and the criminals lead to creation of glaring and wanton loopholes in their prosecution process and their records that become a fertile source of income for the legal practitioners. The inherent defects that remain dormant in the judicial system that provides a couple of opportunities for the accused to go for appeals and the appellate courts by virtue of their appellate powers and gross deficiencies that have occurred at the trial stage in the lower court, always prompt or tempt them to give the benefit of doubt’ to the accused thereby setting aside even the lesser punishment meted out to the accused.

For example in a famous criminal case involving the rape of a woman belonging to schedule tribe, by a group of police men within the premises of the police station, resulted in the conviction of all of them by the lower court (the District Court). When the accused preferred appeal in the High court of Judiciary, all of them were acquitted, giving them benefit of doubt’. It was a question of technical and legal interpretation (misinterpretation?) that resulted in their acquittal. The reason adduced by the High Court was this: the essential elements that constitute a rape eg forceful insertion of penis into the vagina, were not made out. Hence, the acquittal!

Therefore, though giving the benefit of doubt’ may be grossly misused at the judicial level, let us use it rather judiciously in regulating our relationship with our own family members as well as our neighbors.


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